It is no secret, we are big fans of Traeger products here at Smoked Q. So it was only natural that when they came into town for a recent Shop Class, there had to be some representation. But first, let’s start with a little background on what a Shop Class is. And then we will dive into my top three observations from the class.
Directly from Traeger’s website, one can search for Shop Class offerings nearest to you. They bring in a number of different Pit Masters. Those Pit Masters then walk through tips and tricks, with recipe books, sample tastings & gift bags that attendees bring home.
Take home all the skills you need to achieve BBQ greatness. Each Traeger Shop Class is taught by an award-winning pitmaster, and provides detailed, interactive instruction, and tips and tricks of the trade, to take your BBQ skills to the next level. Bask in BBQ greatness while you feast on mouth-watering samples, take notes in your BBQ manual, and even score some special shop class swag to take home.traegergrills.com/shopclass
The added bonus for this class was that it took place at Northeast Indiana’s only Traeger Platinum dealer, Simply Decks & Stuff. Located in Fort Wayne, Indiana Simply Decks & Stuff carries all Traeger models and pellets. As well as many accessories, sauces & rubs. They really know there stuff, so when you are in the market, stop in to see them!
Pitmaster – Heath Riles
Our Traeger Shop class was taught by Grand Champion Heath Riles. Heath walked through his techniques for jerky, salmon, ribeye, St. Louis ribs, & brisket, while answering questions all along the way. Learn more about him and browse his sauce, rubs & spices directly from his website.
Today, Heath Riles has established himself as an industry leading expert in both competition barbecue and competition grilling. Not simply a pit-master in his own right, Heath is also the creator of an award winning line of barbecue rubs, sauces, marinades and injections.heathriles.com
By far the best part about Heath was his openness toward answers ANY question that was posed (with the occasional bit of sarcastic humor) . Case in point. When trimming the St. Louis spare ribs, he instructed to cut off the last rib on each end. One person spoke up to ask, “why do that?” Heath held up the gnarly looking rib meat and said, “would you eat that?” We all chuckled and thought…NOPE!
Top 3 Takeaways
While I learned a great deal, I don’t know that I could do it justice to describe each and every lesson here. Truthfully, the only real way to do a Shop Class justice is to encourage you to take part in one yourself. The 2-3 hours are filled with info, food, and beverages (thanks Leinenkugel). But I would like to offer some value, so here are my top three takeaways.
3-2-1 Ribs are not the best way
For years, I have spent six plus hours smoking ribs. O what I could have done with all this extra time back! As Heath taught us his techniques for trimming St. Louis style ribs, he told us how to go about ribs our next time. For a quick breakdown, set the smoker to 275° and smoke two hours on, one hour wrapped, then set the sauce. That is it!
UPDATE: I have since tried this technique, and these were by far the least fuss and best tasting ribs I have ever smoked!Smoked Q 275° Ribs
Reverse Searing a Rib-Eye
One of the meats I have not mastered on the Traeger is a good steak. My favorite cut is definitely a New York Strip, and we have done them once on the Traeger. Prior to doing them, I had read about the reverse sear technique, but I was a bit skeptical. So I cranked the Timberline up to 500° and kind of cooked them as I had in the past on a charcoal grill. They turned out okay, but not great.
Now we have yet to try this new technique. However the way Heath talked about it, coupled with the sample Rib-eye I tasted. There is no way I will ever try to prepare another steak without the reverse sear technique. Now you can bet, when we have our next set of steaks, you’ll see a new recipe from Smoked Q.
So for the basic process. Prep your Traeger to 225°F and then smoke your steak for about 30-40 minutes. Once the internal temp hits about 125°F (for medium-rare) take the meat off the smoker to rest. Then turn your smoker to 500°F (assuming you have a Timberline). When it reaches temp sear both sides for about 3 minutes a piece. Let it rest again for 5 minutes then serve.
By doing this, the meat remained so juicy and tender. And as Heath described, the real trick is that extra resting time you get while the smoker comes to sear temp. This is a step missed with other techniques, or even when you order a steak while eating out.
Just enjoy what you do
It was after the class was over, and most had left. We were kind of hanging around the shop at Simply Decks and Heath walked up. With only myself and a couple others around, we had a chance to engage in some small talk. For a very accomplished guy, he really struck me as being joyful for what he is able to share.
While he is a Grand Champion many times over. He took pleasure in sharing his knowledge, not just holding it to himself. All too often those with great experience or gifts feel as though their information is a commodity and over protect it. Now I am sure Heath held on to a few of his deepest secrets and tricks. But it was nice for him to share, inspire and even validate what most in attendance see as a relaxing, joyful way to share time with family and friends.